Saying he wants to avoid a “political distraction” for the recipients, Donald Trump announced today that he and his wife Melania are skipping the annual Kennedy Center Honors recognizing greatness in the American arts. According to The New York Times, Trump has said he’s bowing out so that the multiple recipients—including TV producer Norman Lear and dancer Carmen De Lavallade—who’ve said they’d be skipping a White House reception connected with the event can “celebrate without any political distraction.”
Lear’s been a long-time critic of Trump, and said pretty much from the jump that he didn’t want anything to do with the presidential aspects of the Kennedy Honors. De Lavallade, meanwhile, made statements earlier this week—in the wake of Trump’s continued insistence on assigning blame for the violence at white supremacist rallies last week on counter-protesters on the left—that she would also be opting out of the reception (but not the awards themselves). “In light of the socially divisive and morally caustic narrative that our current leadership is choosing to engage in, and in keeping with the principles that I and so many others have fought for, I will be declining the invitation to attend the reception at the White House,” she wrote on Thursday.